Nurse Staffing, the Clinical Work Environment, and Burn Patient Mortality

Abstract [from journal]

The complexity of modern burn care requires an integrated team of specialty providers working together to achieve the best possible outcome for each burn survivor. Nurses are central to many aspects of a burn survivor's care, including physiologic monitoring, fluid resuscitation, pain management, infection prevention, complex wound care, and rehabilitation. Research suggests that in general, hospital nursing resources, defined as nurse staffing and the quality of the work environment, relate to patient mortality. Still, the relationship between those resources and burn mortality has not been previously examined. This study used a multivariable risk-adjusted regression model and a linked, cross-sectional claims database of over 14,000 adult (≥18 yrs.) thermal burn patients admitted to 653 hospitals to evaluate these relationships. Hospital nursing resources were independently reported by over 29,000 bedside nurses working in the study hospitals. In the high burn patient-volume hospitals (≥100/yr.) that care for the most severe burn injuries, each additional patient added to a nurse's workload is associated with 30% higher odds of mortality (p<0.05, 95% CI [1.02, 1.94]), and improving the work environment is associated with 28% lower odds of death (p<0.05, 95%CI [0.07, 0.99]). Nursing resources are vital in the care of burn patients and are a critical, yet previously omitted, variable in the evaluation of burn outcomes. Attention to nurse staffing and improvement to the nurse work environment is warranted to promote optimal recovery for burn survivors. Given the influence of nursing on mortality, future research evaluating burn patient outcomes should account for nursing resources.